Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Mom - Brenda Temple

Last week on May 16th my mom celebrated her 65th birthday. Yes, I have two Taurus parents! I'm sure that explains a lot! Since I wrote a little story about my dad, I wanted to write one about my mom too. Happy Belated Birthday Mom!

Mother-daughter relationships are complicated. I didn't really appreciate my mom until I moved to the other side of the world and until I raised children. Then I truly realized how much sacrifice she made for us and what an amazing selfless heart she has.

My mom lost her own mother when she was 8 years old. It's a tragic story. My maternal grandmother - Ann Catherine Temple was only 38 when she died from a pulmonary embolism. She left behind a loving husband and three girls - my Auntie Maureen, my mother and my Auntie Debbie (my mom is on the right in that photo). My grandmother was giving the girls a bath when she suddenly felt ill and needed to lie down. She died before my grandfather got home from work - he was a doctor. Back in those days, adults thought it was best to shelter the children from death so they were told that their mother had gone to Florida and she wasn't coming home.

You can just imagine what that would do to someone. My mother was never allowed to ask about it and she never got closure. Only recently after our step-grandmother died did the truth start trickling out... 50 years of secrets and silence. But that's a whole other story!

She always had a twinkle in her eye, she was very smart and I know for a fact that she was always into trouble... she just flashed that smile and got away with it! My mom had brains and beauty, a dangerous combination. She clashed with her step mother who was quite tough on her step children and ruled the household with an iron fist. Her father disappeared into his work as a very busy doctor. He changed after Ann Catherine died. He rarely smiled and photos we found 50 years later prove that he was very much in love and a very different man. My rebellious mother didn't like rules and often danced to the beat of her own drum. Her upbringing would be considered upper class - the best education at a good Catholic boarding school but my mom was certainly no snob and didn't care for any of it. She just craved attention and love... it's no surprise she went running into the arms of a "bad boy" looking for a nice girl. I think she caused her parents as much grief as I caused her. (Karma eh mom?)

At the tender age of 16 she had fallen in love with a boy who was from the other side of the tracks and by 17 they were married (shotgun) and had my brother. By the time she was 22 she had 4 kids! They had a volatile relationship and split up after about 7 or 8 years together. Being "separated" in a predominantly Catholic neighbourhood was not common in those days, much less at the age of 24 with 4 kids. My mom was ostracized by most of the women in the community. She had a handful of friends but she mostly just kept to herself and raised her kids as a good Catholic mother would. She never asked her father for help, she was too proud. She taught herself how to fix cars - mainly out of necessity. She got an old Austin Mini and joined a racing club. That's when she met my dad.

My mom always told me that I was just meant to be. Like my dad, she also said that I was conceived out of pure love. That's why my middle name is Joy. Obviously I wasn't planned but I know that the relationship she had with my dad forever changed the way she looked at love. They really loved each other - but it just wasn't meant to be. They were just too different and it never would have worked. It's one of those love stories movies are made of. My mom dated here and there but she never loved anyone else like that again. I hope she doesn't mind me saying that because it's the truth. She never remarried.

When I got sick at the age of 10 with cancer, it was tough on my mom and it was very hard on our relationship. I was a pre-teen and she was trying to deal with it her own way. Things got complicated after that. Maybe she pushed people away, maybe she was just left to deal with things alone. I'm not sure. All I know is that it changed her and she went inside herself then. I felt like I lost her and I resented her for a long long time. That was also an opportunity for the women in the community to blame her for my illness. She was told I got sick because of her sin and this was God's punishment. She stopped going to church and has never gone back. Those must've been the loneliest years of her life. I'm so sorry you went through that mom.

My mom had a difficult time showing her love in physical ways. Now I know that this has a lot to do with the fact that she didn't get much affection as a child and from her failed relationships. I could never understand her love language. I'm more like my dad, who wears his heart on his sleeve. My mom was more reserved, cautious (she was broken inside). I don't think she ever believed she was loveable. But not that she wasn't loving - she sacrificed everything for us. It just took me a long time to realize it. My mom gave us the gift of independence and freedom. She allowed us to make our own choices - and let us suffer the consequences. She wasn't a doting, over protective parent. We had very few rules but we were just expected to be responsible. As a child I don't recall having to ask to do something because the answer was always yes, but it was up to me to figure out how to get there and how I'd get home. There were no rules for homework, we were just expected to do it independently and get good grades. My mom taught me the value of writing a really good letter when I wanted to voice my opinion. She encouraged us to be independent thinkers, and to fight for justice. She wasn't raising children to be part of main stream society. The Pepper family was always different, we were a little on the wild side. We earned our own pocket money by delivering newspapers, running a local lemonade stand, selling stuff that we made at craft fairs, I even used to choreograph dance shows and perform for people in the neighbourhood for coin donations. We were resourceful. I remember my oldest brother used to run a lending library from the hundreds of books and National Geographic Magazines we had - he would charge overdue fees! He taught me the value of a dollar.

Our mom was a great role model. She finished university and got her Honours Bachelor Degree in Psychology when I was 7 years old. She worked, never went on welfare and never ever let us know that she struggled financially. She was a very proud woman. She never had any financial support from our fathers but she did the best she could on her meager wage. We got hand-me-downs from the church and at Christmas I thought everyone got a basket of food! She loved Christmas - and in our household we never got anything (and I mean anything) until Christmas. She would wrap EVERYTHING individually so that it always seemed like we got so much. It was always "from Santa" - she didn't take any credit for any of it. She was always dressed nicely and there was always plenty of food to eat - even if it meant that she went without. She definitely knew how to stretch a meal. I can recall being a little girl and mom had made the most delicious pork chops - she could only afford to buy a certain amount. The boys always got the biggest ones and usually mom would split one with me. But I was still hungry and so mom let me eat whatever was on her plate. I polished it off and she didn't say a word. She went without supper that night. It certainly wasn't the only time that happened. No wonder she was so slim!

I never realized that was love. I thought it was her job, her duty as my mother. I'm ashamed I thought that way. I wish I had appreciated her more. I wish I had told her what a great job she had done. We've all turned out so well - because of the way she raised us. She managed to raise successful, independent, good people. We know how to manage our finances and we're all very responsible and we appreciate what we have. We all like each other too - rare. I know so many people who don't speak to their siblings or who are feuding over silly things. We are all very different personalities but when we get together we have lots of laughs. I have a great family. We have our flaws, nothing is perfect, but my siblings are cool people. The older we get, the more we value each other. Family is so important.

Our mom is one of a kind. She's eccentric and even a little nuts now that she's older. She cackles like a witch and she still has that mischievous twinkle in her eye. She drives me crazy but I love her to bits. As I said, the mother-daughter relationship is complicated. Thanks mom for loving me the way you have. You can't argue that I have grown up to be a pretty special person - because of you. I want you to know that I appreciate everything you've done and I understand you a lot better now that I'm grown up. You are so special and unique and there's no one else who has a mom like you. Lucky us. What would we ever do without you?

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